Gardening TipsWhat you Need to Know When You Don't Have a Green Thumb
Onions have been grown and used for culinary purposes for thousands of years. This easy to grow vegetable is a staple in many kitchens and local gardens. There are many different varieties of onions to suit everyone’s taste, and the nice thing about onions is that they can be enjoyed throughout the summer and then harvested for storage throughout the winter months.
Depending on the type of onion, if it is cured properly, and storage conditions, onions can be stored and enjoyed for several months. Certain onions store better than others. The late season globe onion varieties are the best keepers. If you enjoy growing the large mild sweet onions, use them first as they do not store as well.
Onions grown for storage require a long growing season. Plant them in the garden as soon as you can get into it, as onion seedlings are able to handle light frosts. Because of our short growing season, I prefer to plant onions as either sets or as starter plants. Make sure that they receive enough moisture, especially in the first few weeks, as they have a shallow root system. If you have a problem with maggots, cover the crop with a crop cover to prevent the fly from laying its eggs on the soil, and keep them covered until mid July. Crop covers are a light weight fabric that allows sun and moisture to pass through it, but prevents pests from getting to the crop. They are a great re-usable and organic way to protect crops from pests.
By late August, early September you will notice that the onion tops will begin to yellow and eventually the entire top will fall over at the neck of the plant. This is a sign that the onion has stopped growing, is mature and ready for harvest. You may find that the odd onion has formed a strong stalk with a flower on the top, which is a sign that it has bolted. These onions are not good for storage and should be used first. When the tops have withered and fallen over, the onion is ready to be harvested. Either dig up the onion with a spade or gently pull it out by hand, but try not to damage the onion as this will prevent it from storing. After the onions have been removed, lay them down on the ground and allow them to sun dry for 7-10 days. If the weather is wet, they can be moved to a covered area, and be allowed to cure.
For onions to store properly they need to be cured. The top of the onion should fall off naturally because the neck has dried up. (Onions that have a thick neck will not store well, and should be used first.) The outer skin of the onion will become dry and papery and the roots are dried up. When they have reached this stage they can be stored. Only store onions that are healthy, and free of disease and pests. Store onions in a mesh bag, in a cool (2-10 Celsius) low humidity, ventilated space. When done properly you will be able to enjoy your home grown onions throughout the winter months and into spring.